Monday, December 31, 2018

Those were the days (Musings on physicians I've worked with over a lifetime)

Significant updates: 12 Feb. 2022 (See #3 below:In memoriam:Dr. David Ferguson)
December's blog is about eight pathologists, hematopathologists and hematologists, I've had the pleasure to work with over a more than 50-year transfusion career. I cannot do them justice so will offer a series of brief tidbits that symbolize how I see them. Some are what folks call 'real characters,' some not, but they all have strength of character and I'll never forget any of them.

1. John Bowman (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
I've blogged on Jack before when he died in 2005:
Dr. Jack Bowman (In Memoriam)
Many tidbits to show why I respected him.

The rest are from my career in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

2. Lynn K. Boshkov (Edmonton)
Lynn is such an unassuming person. Loved her tenure at the UAH transfusion service. She was the Medical Director when this case happened
So respected her when she disclosed and explained what had happened to the patient's family whose loved one had died and supported the staff member involved. Lynn eventually moved to Portland's Oregon Health and Science University.

3. David Ferguson (Edmonton)
As UAH Medical Director David helped me a lot as the clinical instructor to the UAH transfusion service. He eventually moved to BC and later retired. Two tidbits:

The Med Director gave oral exams to all med lab technologist doing their clinical rotation at UAH and I was present to decrease any stress. Once David asked a student which lectin acted like anti-A1. Her reply was Delicious biflorus (not Dolichos biflorus) at which point he started laughing uncontrollably. Poor kid, I tried to salvage the moment, though I had a huge grin on my face.

Second tidbit is David's reaction to feedback we got on a paper submitted to AABB's Transfusion.

Letendre PL, Williams MA, Ferguson DJ. Comparison of a commercial hexadimethrine bromide method and low-ionic-strength solution for antibody detection with special reference to anti-K. Transfusion 1987 Mar-Apr;27(2):138-41.

AABB reviewers thought we needed to change title to add 'with special reference to anti-K'. We did, of course, but I'll never forget David's venting as only he could do. In retrospect I wish all could see him as I did.

In Memoriam - David Ferguson: Recently learned of that David died on January 3, 2022.He'll be sadly missed by all of Canada's transfusion medicine community.

4. Ed Uthman (MEDLAB-L)
When I created the mailing list MEDLAB-L in 1994, Ed was one of the first to subscribe. He soon became a rockstar and motivated many to love the list and join. He contributed many posts and made the list a success.

Now on Twitter Ed still contributes to pathology worldwide: Ed on Twitter

5. Neil Blumberg (MEDLAB-L)
Neil also joined MEDLAB-L early on and was so generous with answering questions completely and in detail. The wealth of knowledge he has is incredible and that he's so willing to take time to share it with others.Wow!
I'll always treasure Neil's contributions and he's still at it: Neil on twitter
6. Ira Shulman (MEDLAB-L)
Ira gave talk at Edmonton conference and I got to know him. Came to my University of Alberta Med Lab Sci office to catch up on e-mail. I erred in ordering wine that was sweet at a local restaurant (horrors!) and especially funny as I prefer very dry wine. We went to the local IMAX theatre as he wasn't into a river valley walk. 

Great guy. Loved California Blood Bank Society (CBBS e-network forum) but it ended.

Once he asked me to present at AABB conference with him, but without financial support as a consultant I couldn't, especially given the US-Canada exchange rate. At ISBT World Congress in Vancouver I enjoyed his OMG comment on all the backup files I had for my Powerpoint presentation.

6. Heather Hume (Ottawa, CBS Head Office)
I worked on contract for CBS under Heather's supervision, along with colleague and friend Kathy Chambers, when Heather was executive medical director, and had the vision that CBS should do more transfusion education. Heather is special.

Together, with input from Dr. Lucinda Whitman, we created a Transfusion Medicine website [screen shot of old site] that has since transmogrified to Professional Education.

At Vancouver at ISBT 2002 Congress when, as a panel member, I noted I'd stayed at University of Alberta Med Lab Sci for 22 years but managed only 9 months at CBS Edmonton as 'Assman,' Heather quipped,~ to 'Pat always wants to end with a laugh.' I'm sure she was thinking much worse, but the classy lady gave me the benefit of the doubt.

7. Gwen Clarke (Edmonton)
I taught Gwen when she was in Med Lab Sci and got to know her better after she became a hematopathologist. In 2006 Gwen and Morris Blajchman edited Clinical Guide to Transfusion, the first to be published online and in print. Believe it or not, I was a co-author (minuscule role) of one of its chapters:
2006 Chamber K, Letendre P, Whitman L. Blood Components. In: Clinical Guide to Transfusion, Clarke G, Blajchman M, eds. Ottawa: Canadian Blood Services, 2006.
Every technologist who works with Gwen respects her. She's a oner. I hope CBS knows how lucky they are to have her on staff.

 8. Susan Nahirniak
I count Susan as one of my Med Lab Sci 'kids'. Despite all my kooky blogs and tweets, Susan never fails to greet me with a warm smile, as here at MLS 2018 reunion. I so appreciate that she forgives me my sins for old time's sake. During our talk her phone kept vibrating because her daughter wanted to be picked up, but Susan kindly ignored the phone.

In summary, I hope you enjoyed these glimpses into encounters I've had with a variety of transfusion physicians over the decades. All are very different, unique, and superb representatives of their profession.

Replies I received on Twitter when I posted this blog. Both have given me permission to post their tweets.
#1 By @shroon7, 1 Jan. 2019
I adored Dr. Boshkov and was @UBB [University of Alberta Blood Bank] as an LAII when she left. Dr. Clarke is also wonderful and I’m glad I still get to talk to her occasionally when she’s on call. RBB’s [Royal Alexandra blood bank] loss was CBS’s gain.Dr. N [Nahirniak] is another fave; more than a few times I’ve been very glad it was her on call. #2 By @shroon7, 1 Jan. 2019
She [Lynn Boshkov] was just so wonderfully “chill” in bone marrows. She had the best ability to keep patients distracted and at-ease during the whole procedure.
#3 By @shroon7 1 Jan. 2019
To sum up: Considering THREE fabulous hemepaths I’ve had the good fortune to work with are three of your top choices after your long career, I’d consider myself very blessed.

#1 By @DoctorCanBob, 1 Jan. 2019
Lynn was trained in McMaster and was also a superb "clotter".
#2 By @DoctorCanBob, 1 Jan. 2019
Lynn is still doing primarily clotting in Portland at OSMU. 

Also see entire thread of these tweets.

Could choose many songs for this blog but decided on 'Those Were The Days' by Mary Hopkin. Her 1968 version, produced by Paul McCartney, became a number one hit in UK.
As always, feedback is appreciated. See Comments below.


  1. Anonymous8:59 AM

    What a generous tribute - something that you are so incredibly good at generating. Was going to stop with that comment, but find I must beg to differ on Blut's self-description as ex-blood bank educator. Your on-going sharing of what you know means you have never stopped educating, and I am so grateful for that.

  2. Thank you, Anonymous.It was easy to write a blog about those physicians, who I call 'good guys', one and all.Blog practically wrote itself.

    About Blut being an ex-educator, perhaps I should have said ex-instructor but I'm reminded of the essence of communication: Sender-Medium-Receiver. My sending skills have deteriorated. Blogging and tweeting are media with significant flaws. And I suspect many readers aren't into hearing the messages I now send.

    Not like captive Med Lab Sci students ('kids') who were similar to sponges, soaking up my transfusion propaganda. Big grin...

    Thanks again for the kind words.

  3. Anonymous8:44 PM

    Glad to catch the notification on Twitter about updates to this page. I love the inclusion of Ed and Neil's MedLab-L contributions. What a rich resource that list was!

  4. Yep. MEDLAB-L was a gem, began in 1994, lasted for 23 years. What I wrote to the list 24 Aug. 2018 to explain the bitter-sweet decision.
    A subscriber asked me privately why we decided to end MEDLAB-L. It was difficult and partly based on objective data, partly subjective. My reasons:

    #1. By 2017 the number of ML subscribers had dropped off dramatically. There are now 1330 subscribers (~55% of what it once had). At its height ML had 2408 subscribers in 49 countries. The number of new subscribers is all but non-existent.

    Frankly, I don't think there are even 1330 subscribers now because it was my experience though the years that many subscribers set their option to nomail and later forgot they were even subscribed.

    #2. As one example of list traffic, in June 2017 ML had 13 messages compared to 273 in June 2002.

    Reality: ML was created in 1994, the start of the Internet being available to the public. Facebook was launched in 2004, Twitter founded in 2006. Many professional FB groups exist. You can follow colleagues on Twitter, share resources and discuss issues.

    Today most of the developed world has Internet access and many med lab/pathology resources are online. Google Search (founded in 1997, now in 149 languages) and PubMed searches can find you most everything. Journals are online. Professional associations are online and offer discussion various forums.

    To me a strength of ML was that it was multi-disciplinary, with subscribers from many profession ranging from clin lab scientists/medical technologists to PhD researchers to pathologists to educators to diagnostic reps, and more. I toyed with making it a transfusion list but it never would have been the success it was.

    That was ML's strength but also a weakness as I suspect some, perhaps many, subscribers left or set nomail because they didn't like the 'noise' they perceived as irrelevant to them. This likely became more pronounced as the Internet expanded and people were increasingly bombarded with digital input, including e-mail abuse in their workplaces.

    Folks, I'm now 75 (Yikes! but still puttering about on the Internet) and was 51 when ML was created. I did not want Chris to have to deal with watching the list wither further and ultimately have to decide on his own to axe it and feel the need to consult me, if I was still breathing. We discussed it and he agreed. ML had a great run but its usefulness has waned.

    At one time ML was 'cutting edge' (hate that cliche but it's true). Now it verges on being an anachronism, especially to new entrants to the field who have grown up with the Internet.

    Tough decision for me but as you age there are many tough decisions and losses. One thing I know for sure is 'Life is change.'

    Hope this explains it.
    Cheers, Pat
    Was axing the correct decision? I do not know but hope it was.It's on me, not Chris, who would bear the burden of maintaining it.